Feb. 18, 2009
Auburn, Ala. - Auburn relay showed up in force on day one of SECs as the Tigers claimed three of the Championship's opening four swimming events. The women's 800 FR team set new US Open, American and NCAA records in the process.
After the first day of competition, the Auburn men are on top of the pile with 118 points. Florida trails close with 110. On the women's side, the Gators are in first with 116 and are followed by Auburn with 88.
Shortly after a stunning Tyler McGill come-from-behind win in the men's 800 FR, the Auburn women's 800 FR lineup of Ava Ohlgren, Caitlin Geary, Melissa Marik and Maggie Bird ignited the James E. Martin Aquatic Center. The squad set new US Open, American and NCAA records with a remarkable 6:54.02.
"I think we were really building off the guys' relay," said Ohlgren on the Auburn women's 800 FR performance. "Tyler pulling that out and catching up to the Florida swimmer really got everyone excited."
Ohlgren's leadoff split of 1:42.99 earns the nine-time SEC Champion her second individual "A" cut of the season. The Northville, Mich., native posted her other NCAA automatic qualifying time in the 400 IM at the USA Short Course National Championships.
"This was the third year in a row Ava Ohlgren led off that relay," said Auburn co-head women's coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. "She has such tremendous heart. There was no way she would put us in a position where we would have to come from behind."
Auburn has now won three consecutive 800 FRs along with back-to-back championships in 2003-04.
"Our anchor Maggie Bird did so well with her distance training background," said Tierney-Walker on her 800 FR anchor. "I thought she executed well - got in and out of the wall well. She stayed on the opposite side of the lane from the Georgia swimmer. Solid swims all around. We have a lot of momentum going into tomorrow."
The Auburn men's 200 MR team of Jared White, Michael Silva, Matt Targett and Jakob Andkjaer touched in with the nation's top-time of the 2008-09 season. Their mark of 1:23.69 ranks second all-time at Auburn behind the current NCAA record time of 1:23.24 set by Scott Goodrich, David Maras, Alexei Puninski and Cesar Cielo at the 2008 NCAA Championships.
"It was a great start," said Auburn co-head men's coach Brett Hawke. "It's exactly what we wanted. We came in tonight and showed the nation what we're made of. Mission accomplished for the first day." Their time earned Auburn its first "A" cut in the 200 MR. Auburn earned an "A" cut in the 400 free relay at the 2008 USA Short Course National Championships.
The Tigers have won seven of the last eight 200 medley relays at the SEC Championships and have won eight titles overall.
"I think the two captains, Tyler McGill and Matt Targett, really set the tone today," said Hawke. "The way Tyler came over the top of Florida on the anchor was impressive. We haven't won that event in a long time. Today was absolutely huge."
Auburn relay broke its eight-season dry spell in the men's 800 FR, as junior Tyler McGill overcame Florida's Balazs Gercsak in the final leg. The team of Gideon Louw, Pascal Wollach, Will Dove and McGill clocked in at 6:18.15 for another "A" cut.
The Auburn women's 200 medley relay team of Rachel Goh, Micah Lawrence, Alanna Dillette and Ariana Vanderpool-Wallace placed second with a time of 1:36.59, earning Auburn its first "A" cut in a women's relay event this season. Goh's backstroke leg of 24.05 was the fastest opening leg of a 200 medley relay this season. Wednesday's win marks the fifth time Auburn has won the 200 MR since 2002.
After shaky prelim rounds, Auburn divers Kelly Marx and Dan Mazzaferro tied for second in the men's 1-meter springboard. Each put up a career-high 372.75 points to combine for a total of 33 points for the Auburn men. Marx and Mazzaferro finished seventh and eighth, respectively, under the eight-man cutline.
"It was a great finish to day one," said Auburn head diving coach Jeff Shaffer. "The guys stepped up as upperclassmen in the finals. They showed their competitive ways in how they stepped up from the prelims to the finals."
Freshman Vanessa Dantin was the lone Auburn representative in the finals of the women's 3-meter springboard. The Conroe, Texas native surpassed her previous career best to place fifth with a 343.30. Her finish earned the Tigers 14 points.
"I was really excited to see Vanessa make it to finals," said Shaffer. "She posted her two best scores of the year at SECs. That really sets us up well for the rest of the meet.
Finishing second in prelims, Dantin posted a 331.55, shattering her previous high mark of 305.55 against Florida. Freshman Anna Aguero placed 18th scoring a 251.90.
Auburn swimming and diving returns to action Thursday at 10 a.m. CST as day two of the SEC Championships kicks off with the 500 free prelims.